Put The Needle on the The Record….

I’ve had a lot of blood tests recently.  A lot.  You think by now I would have got used to them.  Nah… I still hate them, I still get wound up by them and I still would rather not have one thank you.

But being on the meds that I am, it requires me to have regular blood tests to check that my kidneys are still functioning well and coping with the extra work that the meds are putting on them.

I’ve also signed up to a new GP Practice recently, and of course with my medical history I get a call and have all these wonderful appointments made for me to check everything out, blood pressure, weight, pulse, meds, blood, kidneys, etc, etc, etc.  I should be grateful really that they are taking seriously, my heart issues – (As an aside, I like the word ‘issue’, it’s quite weighty and not so negative as ‘problems’, it also gives hope, hope that the issue can be overcome or lived with positively).

Anyway, I am grateful that they are taking my heart issues seriously and it was during this new patient review that I had a blood test and they found out I was borderline anemic.

I probably have been for some time as my eating habits over the last 6 months were quite appalling, living off takeaways and crisps. I’ve been a pescetarian for 26 years and I guess it all adds up that my iron levels are a little low.  So it was suggested that I take an over the counter iron supplement.  With the other meds I take I have to take the iron supplement in the evening and then eat a tomato…. I kid you not, the pharmacist recommended eating a tomato or a satsuma with the supplement to help my body absorb the iron.  I’ve done weirder things in the name of keeping myself healthy so popping a cherry tomato in my mouth every evening isn’t too much bother.

But blood tests do bother me.  Not as much as they used to, when I was younger, but I still feel the knot in my stomach every time I need one.  Right up until recently I would shake and cry.  It’s not just blood tests, any form of injection would yield the same result.  How embarrassing it has been, being the youngest person in the flu jab clinic in full view of the other patients, sobbing my eyes out while a helpful doctor or nurse injects me with flu vaccine and you want to know the stupid thing – they really didn’t hurt, just a slight feeling of an ache in the crux of my arm.

The first blood test I remember was before my second operation. I was 6years old.  I remember having to squeeze a sponge to prepare the vein and then watching the needle go into my arm and watching the blood go up into the syringe.  It was fascinating. Everyone commented on how brave I was, but I just remember watching the purple-red (very deoxygenated blood, I was quite ill then) swirl into the plastic syringe thinking “Wow! That comes from me” and “Deoxygenated blood is blue!”

So what happened?  Why from that fascinated 6year old did I go to quivering, snotting hysterical wreck. It was an incident with a very gruff doctor, who had little experience with children, who had to take my blood the day I arrived at Papworth, the day I found out that I was having an operation.

His technique was pretty brutal, I was quite happy at first, held my arm out obediently thinking I would find it interesting but something was not right and the pain was unbelievable for a child to withstand.  He pulled out the needle and then stuck it in again and he had to take a lot of blood, much more than I had previously given.  I buckled. I kicked and screamed and yelled and he had the nerve to tell my mother off for not controlling me! In the end the only way he could take it was with me straddled over my mother’s lap, her holding me down and him grabbing my arm making it rigid and therefore almost impossible to take blood without bruising and without pain.

After that.  I freaked out every time a doctor or a nurse came round to take blood or give me an injection.  I refused pain relief after the operation because the higher doses came as injections, I was more terrified of the needles than the pain I was in and made do with the medicine.

So yes, many a time I have sat silently with tears rolling down my face as blood is taken or an injection given, and I’ve felt so stupid as I’ve made it become this huge fuss and then I felt even more stupid as I realised while the procedure was happening that, actually, it didn’t hurt that much.

How do I do cope now.  I’m up front with anyone who is going to jab me with a needle, I explain that I can’t see the needle or the syringe before the deed is done.  I make a point of looking the person in the eye (just incase I accidentally see the syringe on the table) and explain that as they are preparing my arm etc I have to look at the ceiling.  I then use relaxation techniques – mainly I concentrate on my breath, breathing in and slowly breathing out when I feel the needle go in, I also make an effort to relax my arm.

Techniques for taking blood have also changed in the last 40 years, I was surprised a few years ago that the arm is placed downwards on a pillow rather than on a table, using gravity I suppose, but it’s much easier to relax the arm this way and in hospitals they have special chairs that hold your arm in the correct position much easier.

So hows the iron count?  Fine, latest results back today are all normal and no action needed, worth taking a supplement and eating a tomato every night for I think!

Medication (….is what you need……)

I take medication, twice a day, for the rest of my life, probably.  I don’t like taking it, it’s like a big fat reminder every morning and evening that I’m a bit of a miggy and my health isn’t so good anymore.  But it’s a needs must and I have to lump it.  I hate the idea of putting synthetic crap into my body, hate it. I’m sure it isn’t good in the long run for my body, heart or kidneys, but at the moment benefits outweigh the side effects so I take them.

I think I’ve mentioned in a previous blog that I take diuretics – water tablets.  I take two different kinds in the morning and a lower dose of one of the morning ones in the evening.  The main effect of water tablets is they rid your body of excess water.  When the heart isn’t functioning as well as it could be, it finds it harder and harder to push the blood around the body, organs begin to get starved of vital oxygen and become incompetent at their job, excess fluid in the body then builds up and the results are swollen feet and ankles, bloated stomachs and faces .  Anyway, so the water tablets get rid of this excess water, and so the meds I take make me pee!  Yep, pissing like a race horse has become a hobby!   Within the first hour of taking them I have to be near a loo, if I go on a long journey they don’t get taken until I reach the destination – experience has it known that being stuck in a traffic jam on the M4 when you are desperate for the loo is not particularly pleasant and very painful! 

I can’t determine how each day will pan out, sometimes I’m nipping to the loo and back every 20 minutes, sometimes whole afternoons can go by and I’ve not needed to go.  I guess it could be about how much sodium I’ve had in my diet that day, maybe…

So that’s a new thing I’ve had to learn, taking tablets and being responsible for not running out.  Something I’m not too good at.  I’m learning that an early warning sign that I am stressed is that I forget to take them and then I usually remember at a very inappropriate time where toilet access isn’t great and I’m in the middle of something important and resent being interrupted by my bladder every 20 minutes.  I have resorted to setting reminders on my phone to take them. 

It has also brought up the issue of control for me.  You see, though I administer them to myself every day, the Doctor has over all control of actually prescribing them to me.  I found this out this week.

I use a system where I am given a date by the pharmacy and go in and pick the meds up they’re all ready for me and so I don’t have to think about repeat prescriptions or getting the prescription into the chemist it’s all done for me.  So far so good.  Except this week I went to pick them up to be told that one of the prescribed medicines that I take were being ‘withheld’ because ‘apparently you should have enough of them already’ and that this was to stop me ‘stockpiling’ drugs….. Hang on… I joined this surgery a few months ago, the plan was agreed and I had equal amounts of all drugs that I needed prescribed from day one of joining this particular surgery…. how on earth does a Doctor, who I probably haven’t even met get to the conclusion that I’m stockpiling drugs to melt them into crack, to turn into some Breaking Bad character and sell them on to little children or something!!!! 

I had one tablet of that particular brand left… believe me if the Doctor thinks I can go without them that’s great, I’d happily come off them, but without any consultation….?? I did try to come off them myself, a while ago when I ran out and couldn’t get to a chemist, and being the stubborn mare I can be, I thought a few days off them would be ok… oh no, my legs swelled up and I felt bloated and slow, not good. Lesson learned.

The Pharmacist, was very sorry but could not give me prescribed meds without a prescription and suggested that I go back to the Dr to ask why he decided to stop administering the medication that I need.

I couldn’t get a next day appointment, and I had only one tablet left, so I had to just go to the surgery at a specific time and wait, and wait, and wait, and wait, almost positive that I was going to get ill, being surrounded by people, coughing and colding into their hands, scarves, and tissues!  

Over an hour I had to wait amongst the really sick people who probably really needed to see a doctor……  When I finally met the Doctor I was told, that no the medication should not have been stopped that according their records there was no way I was stockpiling my meds…..

An hour of my day.  A good few minutes of a doctor’s time that could have been used elsewhere, where it was needed, it makes me mildly annoyed, but do you know the most resentful thing about this whole medication thing….

The cost.  I have to pay for each item at full cost on that prescription.  That’s three items in all at £7.85 each that’s £23.55 every other month (they won’t give me more than two months supply of everything, you know, just in case I melt them down for crack…yada yada yada….)

It was only a couple of months ago that I found out that I could get the bill reduced as two of the meds on the list were just different strengths of the same medication, so I only needed to pay for two things.  I’d been paying for all three for years before some kind soul told me that one.  I know I am not alone here, transplant patients, asthma sufferers, colitis sufferers, those with Crohn’s Disease, the list is endless we all pay out for the medication that for some, keeps us alive

I know I’m having a good old moan here, and really £20 every other month isn’t that bad, but I (cue violins) was born with this condition that is going to get worse as I get older, the level of meds will probably go up, there is a bit of ‘well I didn’t ask for this, so why do I have to pay’ going on, but when I have my rational head screwed back on in a few days I’ll look at this post and be the first to tell me to QUIT MOANING!!